REDFERN: Baffi and Mo Espresso on Redfern Street was established in 2001. Baffi is Italian for moustache and the mo-tif is celebrated by present owner-managers Zach and Margarita.
Zach tells the SSH: “We bought the business in 2020. In late 2021, my sister Byan sent me a photo of our father Noori, a photo I’d never seen before. Margarita thought it’d make an ideal graphic for the cafe. We came up with a line drawing with the help of an artist we know. And we love how it turned out.
“Dad was the head of police in my hometown, Kirkuk, an oil-rich town in northern Iraq. He was a good man and remains an inspiration.”
Zach speaks of his hometown with affection and sadness. “It was a beautiful town … pretty much destroyed by war.”
Exiled for being Kurdish, Zach spent two years in a refugee camp in Turkey before seeking asylum in Melbourne. At 21, he had no money and didn’t speak English.
Within a few years he’d met and married Margarita, learned to read and speak English (he is also fluent in Kurdish, Arabic and Greek), completed studies in business and opened his own bakery-cafe.
A series of corporate jobs in the gaming and liquor industry left Zach unfulfilled. “I realised it wasn’t healthy for me,” he says.
At Baffi and Mo he has found satisfaction. Staff members Rani and Aaron share in the work and fun.
“I love being here in Redfern,” Zach says. “It’s a diverse community of many cultures. In some ways it reminds me of Richmond in Melbourne. Redfern is an amazing place, and a cafe is somewhere for people to meet and interact. We laugh a lot.”
The art of coffeemaking involves a lot. “Our roaster, Toretto, creates unique blends for us,” Zach says. “There’s a single origin from Tanzania and a blend from Brazil, Columbia and Ghana.”
Zach makes all the cakes and Margarita makes Brownies as well as traditional cheese and spinach Spanakopita.
The all-day menu features cafe favourites the Hash Benny and Corn and Pea Fritters. The burgers and omelettes are excellent, and light lunch options include the Baffi Buddha Bowl and Moroccan Hash Stack.
Opening hours are 6am to 3pm, Monday to Sunday. Takeaway, dine in (the space is well lit and ventilated, with large bi-fold windows) and al fresco.
“We’ve survived three lockdowns and life is good,” says Zach, grinning cheek to cheek.